Siti was my best friend. Together with Li May, they were my classroom buddies.
The end of November saw us brimming with excitement and relief Relief because we
had just finished our SPM examination and excitement because we had planned and
were about to embark on a trekking trip in Northern Thailand.
Siti had been to
Thailand before. She always waxed lyrical about the fabulous hawker food there
and the endless shopping bargains. We were planning to indulge in the food and
to visit the famous Chiang Mai night market. But most of all, we were looking
forward to trekking in Thailand's mountains and visiting the hill tribes there.
All three of us loved the outdoors and had gone on expeditions in Malaysia. The
night before the trip saw us packing. We especially took pains to arrange our
camping gear and mountain equipment. As luck would have it, Sid got herself
involved in a physical fracas that night. We
did not know this until much later when the troubles were over.
She had gone down to the void deck of her block to escort her sister up to
her flat. Her sister was on her way back from tuition. While Siti was there, she
noticed a group of girls staring at her. When she bravely approached them to ask
them what the matter was, they set upon her. She was punched in the chest. It
was fortunate that she had fallen down and a male passer-by appeared just then.
The girls fled from the scene. Siti managed to stand up with his aid. She seemed
all right and made a quick check to see if there were bruises or cuts.
Somewhat shaken, she made her way back to her flat and her room. It was there
that her sister found her crying when she came back from her tuition. Sin told
her the matter and elicited a promise from
her not to inform her parents or any of her friends. It was Siti's nature not to
trouble and worry others. Hence, we embarked on our expedition with her, not
knowing about the beating.
Soon, we were caught in the joys of our trip. The shopping done and the food
savored, we embarked on our third objective - that of trekking Thailand's famous
forested mountains. The morning air was fresh as we placed one energetic foot
after the other up the slopes. Every interesting flower, plant or animal life
was an occasion for stopping and to observe. Siti was our leader and led the
way. However, halfway up the hill, we noticed her panting and visibly tired.
"What's wrong, Siti?" we asked. "Are you all right?" She replied in the
affirmative but five minutes later, she stumbled and suddenly fell. We rushed
towards her. She was pale but what horrified us was the dark blood that had
covered her lips. We surmised that the blood
came from internal injuries. Siti needed help quickly. But how were we to obtain
medical assistance in such an isolated area? There was no other option but to
bring her down the slopes to the nearest village. This we did, taking turns to
give her a piggyback. It was a tortuous descent, in contrast to the earlier
climb. In addition, hordes of pesky mosquitoes decided then to gorge themselves
on our defenceless sweet Malaysian blood. At one stage, I stumbled and sprawled
onto the ground, bringing the hapless Siti onto the ground with me.
Words cannot describe our relief when we finally bore down on the village and
found medical help there. An assessment by the local doctor confirmed internal
injuries brought about by a fight and subsequent fall. Through his kind help, we
were able to summon a helicopter to ferry Sin to a hospital in Chiang Mai. Sin
was in a state of unconsciousness as the craft took off into the air. We tried
our best to reach Chiang Mai Hospital in a hired jeep quickly When we arrived,
we learned that her condition was critical and she had to be operated on. Sin's
parents were informed. We paced the wards, praying and hoping.
Siti survived the operation which was a success. Her parents arrived to learn
of its success. Her condition improved steadily. Mr Ali and his wife thanked us
profusely. We stayed in Chiang Mai until Sid was better. When she was conscious,
she revealed her fight and injuries to her parents. Her parents scolded her for
keeping it a secret and remarked that she had caused much trouble to us, her
friends. However, we defended Sid by saying that it was typical of her selfless
nature. We also made a vow to return to Chiang Mai with Sid to complete the
unsuccessful climb up the hills.